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Posted on Wednesday, June 14, 2023
With a growing number of older adults living independently, it's increasingly important to make sure that they're safe at home. Falls, burns, and poisonings are among the most common accidents involving older people. Older adults who live alone may also become the victims of criminals who target older people. If you're an older adult living on your own, or care for an older person living alone, here's what you need to do to stay safe.
Creating a support system is key. You need to have a family member or trusted adult friend that can help you with making decisions, attend doctor appointments with you, or help you around the home.
General Tips you didn't Think of
- If grocery shopping is too hard on you to do, try setting up a grocery delivery system or finding a helpful neighbor that can do your shopping for you.
- Stay active. Join an elderly fitness group in your area if one is offered.
- Keep your house temperature regulated. Being too hot in the summer can cause stroke, while you can literally freeze to death if your house is too cold in the winter.
- Consider putting a GPS location service on your phone to share with friends and family - just in case you're in an accident somewhere and you don't know where.
- Install a home security system to keep criminals out and your home safe.
Keep Emergency Numbers Close-by
Always keep a list of emergency numbers by each phone. Write this information in large enough print that you can read it easily if you are in a hurry or frightened. Be sure to list numbers for:
- 911, local police, sheriff or state police.
- Family members or close friends to call in case of emergency. You can list them as ICE (In case of emergency) in your phone and most EMS/police are trained to look for this number.
- Doctors offices, names and specialties
- Poison control 1-800-222-1222
Falls among adults 65 and older caused over 36,000 deaths in 2020, making it the lead cause of injury death for that group. And in 2020, emergency departments recorded 3 million visits for older adult falls. And Older adult falls $50 billion in medical costs annually - with 3/4 paid by Medicare or Medicaid. How can you prevent costly falls?
- If you have trouble with walking or your balance, or have fallen in the past year, have your healthcare provider do a special falls risk assessment.
- While talking to your doctor, ask them if you could benefit from an exercise program to help prevent falls and improve your balance.
- Consider a special alarm that you can press if you fall those contacts emergency services for you. This is a very helpful tool if you have fallen previously or are scared you will fall.
- Let the answering machine or voicemail that that call for you. Don't rush to the phone, many people fall rushing to the phone!
- If your home has hardwood, linoleum, or tile flooring, consider wearing nonslip footwear such as slippers, grippy socks, or shoes with rubber soles.
- If you are told you need to use a cane, walker or wheelchair, take the advice given to you and use it!
Keep Your Home Safe
Keeping your home safe should be a no-brainer. And these tips are not just for the elderly!
- Make sure your hallways, stairs, paths and front steps are illuminated and cleared of items such as books or shoes.
- Keep rugs away from stairs - top or bottom - as they can slip and cause a fall.
- Tape or secure rugs down to prevent them from slipping or catching on your walking devices.
- Use rails/banisters when going up and down the stairs. Have some professionally installed on your shower and other areas you may need help holding yourself when standing.
Fire Safety in the Home
- Never attempt to put a fire out on your own. Escape and call 911.
- When cooking, wear tight fitting clothes, with short sleeves to prevent catching yourself on fire.
- If a cooking appliance has frayed wires or damaged electrical cords, throw them out and replace the whole unit. Do not attempt to fix them with tape yourself.
- Do not overload electrical outlets.
- Make sure your smoke alarm is working and replace the batteries every 6 months. You should do this with your CO2 alarm as well.
- Do not smoke in bed or while falling asleep. And never leave unattended candles burning.
- Turn off space heaters when you leave the room. Make sure there is nothing within a 3-foot radius around the heater, such as curtains, furniture, blankets or books.
- Never heat your home with a stove, oven or grill since they can give off carbon monoxide, a deadly gas you cannot see or smell.
Keep Safe in the Bathroom
- Set your water heater thermostat no higher than 120 degrees Fahrenheit to prevent burns and scalding.
- Install grip bars in the shower and around the toilet to prevent falls.
- Rubber mats are a great alternative to traditional bathmats and will not slip when getting in/out of the shower.
- If you have a hard time getting in or out of the shower/toilet, ask your friends/family/staff to get you a special tub chair, bench or toilet seat.
Over 5,000 elderly adults in the US die each year from an accidental drug overdose.
-Keep all prescription medications and non-prescription medications in their original containers so you don't mix up medications.
- Tell your pharmacist to print the labels on your medications in a large font.
- Always take your medications in a well-lit room so you can be sure of what you are taking.
- Bring all your medications, whether in their bottles, or written down on a piece of paper, with you to all your doctor appointments so your doctor can make note. It's also a good idea to have them written down so if you go to the ER or a family member takes you to an appointment, they can provide the doctors with your prescriptions.
- Make sure to take prescribed medications as they are intended, and do not mix with other medications (even over the counter) unless prescribed by your doctor.
Protect Yourself Against Abuse and Crime
Elderly abuse is unfortunately common. Abuse, including neglect and exploitation, is experienced by about 1 in 10 people who are 60 and over and live at home.
- Never let a stranger in your home. This includes door to door salesmen or people offering to cut your grass or tend to your pool. If they didn't call to make an appointment beforehand, don't let them in.
- Keep your doors, windows and garage doors locked at all times.
- If someone calls you to make an offer or sell you something, talk it over with a family or friend before accepting that offer.
- Online/Phone scams are HUGE and target the elderly! Never share your personal information over the phone or internet with anyone. Keep your social security number, credit card, bank information and account passwords to yourself and NEVER share with someone over the phone that you do not know.
- Always ask for written information about any offers, prizes, or charities and wait until you have the information mailed to you and you can review it properly.
- Never let someone pressure you into buying something, signing contracts or making a donation. It is never rude to discuss those plans with a family member or friend. If you are car shopping, take someone with you so you do not get taken advantage of.
If you can think of anything we have left out that may have helped you or a loved one be safer while living on their own, please leave us a comment and let us know!